Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 397, Issue 1, pp 357–367 | Cite as

Identification of additives in poly(vinylacetate) artist’s paints using PY-GC-MS

  • Miguel F. Silva
  • Maria Teresa Doménech-Carbó
  • Laura Fuster-López
  • Marion F. Mecklenburg
  • Susana Martin-Rey
Original Paper


Commercial poly(vinyl acetate) (PVAc) paint formulations for artists include a number of compounds in addition to the PVAc polymer and pigments to improve the physical and chemical properties of the resulting product. Among the most common additives are surfactants, coalescing agents, defoamers, freeze–thaw agents and thickeners. These products significantly influence the behaviour of the dried film. Nevertheless, they are usually difficult to detect with conventional analytical methods given their low concentration. In order to identify these additives, present in the dried film as minor components, an analytical method based on in situ thermally assisted pyrolysis–silylation gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) using hexamethyldisilazane as a derivatisation reagent is proposed. This method improves the conventional GC-MS analysis performed by direct pyrolysis and enables the simultaneous identification of the PVAc binding medium and the additives included by the manufacturer in the commercial paint. Five different commercial PVAc paints have been analysed, namely, armour green, burnt umber, oriental red, raw umber and white from Flashe®. Internal plasticiser VeoVa consisting of C10 fatty acids with highly branched chains has been recognised from the MS spectra. On the other hand, the differences found in the additive content of the studied paints, in particular the poly(ethylene glycol)-type surfactant, are in good agreement with their mechanical properties.


Picture of armour green Flashe® paint sample breaking in the mechanical tester’s gauge. The photo evidences the type of break these samples experience. Rather than a clean break, the sample experiences several simultaneous fractures with a saw-tooth-like pattern


Paints PVAc Additives PEG Py-GC-MS HMDS 



Financial support is gratefully acknowledged from the Spanish “I+D+I MICINN” project CTQ2008-06727-C03-01/BQU supported by ERDEF funds as well as the “Generalitat Valenciana” I+D project ACOMP/2009/171 and the AP2006-3223 project ascribed to the program of predoctoral stages of university professors and researchers in Spanish universities and research centres from the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN). Tensile strength testers of the Smithsonian Institution, Museum Conservation Institute are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel F. Silva
    • 1
  • Maria Teresa Doménech-Carbó
    • 1
  • Laura Fuster-López
    • 1
  • Marion F. Mecklenburg
    • 2
  • Susana Martin-Rey
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Restauración del PatrimonioUniversidad Politécnica de ValenciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Museum Conservation InstituteSmithsonian InstitutionSuitlandUSA

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